The Story Behind Choke
Bill was the first man I ever met who called himself a sex addict. This was in a church conference room, on a Thursday night, where a couple dozen men and women sat in plastic chairs around a table stained with poster paint and glue. Bill is a big guy, wearing three layers of plaid flannel shirts, with a big square chin and a booming gruff voice.
This is just after Christmas, the first Christmas in almost twenty years that Bill says he didn’t spend with his wife and kids. Instead, he put on a dress and went downtown to an adult bookstore and gave blow jobs all day.
This is the world of sexual compulsives. One by one, almost everybody around that table, very ordinary folks, young and old, hip and square, men and woman, they took turns telling about their week’s worth of sex with prostitutes, lingerie models, and strangers. They talked about internet sex, public bathroom sex, and telephone sex. None of these people were anyone you’d look at twice on the street, but their secret lives were amazing.
Everybody in my family does something compulsively. My brother exercises. My mother gardens. I write. That’s part of the reason why I was at this meeting.
This is the rest of the reason:
Ten-plus years ago, my brother joked that the best place to meet women was at support groups for sexually irresponsible people.
At the time, he was engaged to a beautiful woman. She was funny and charming and looked just like Vanna White. The two of them had met at work, and my brother knew about the support groups because she went to them. They’d almost gotten married, but he’d heard some rumors about what she did while he was gone on business trips.
To resolve the issue, before he left for his next trip, he put a voice-activated tape recorded under the bed in his apartment. When he came home, the tape was run all the way through. Rewinding it and listening, he says, was the hardest
thing he’s ever done in his life.
On the tape, his fiancйe was drunk and bringing home guy after guy – to his bed. The second-hardest thing he’s ever done was confronting her with the tape and ending their engagement.
Today, he’s married with a beautiful family, married to someone else.
He told me this story one summer while we drove to Idaho to help identify a body the police said might be our father. The body was found, shot, next to the body of a woman, in a burned-down garage in the mountains outside Kendrick, Idaho
This was the summer of 1999. The summer the Fight Club movie came out. We went to our father’s house in the mountains outside of Spokane, trying to track down some X-rays that showed the two vertebrae fused in Dad’s back after a railroad accident left him disabled.
My father’s place in the mountains was beautiful, hundreds of acres, wild turkeys and moose and deer everywhere. On the road up to the house, there was a new sign. It was next to a boulder that lay beside the road. It said, “Kismet Rock.” We had no idea what the sign meant.
Once at a toga party, I was drinking with a friend, Cindy, and she said, “Let me tell you about my mother. My mother gets married a lot.” It was such a great line I used it in Invisible Monsters. I knew exactly what Cindy meant.
Part of visiting my Dad was always meeting his latest girlfriend. Or wife.
Before my brother and I could find the X-rays, the police called to say the body was Dad’s. They’d used dental records we’d shipped to them earlier.